Rescuing the past…is doomed to fail. It’s uncanny that we try at all.
By David Stone
Is it because it fades so fast? Every moment’s a wisp, a flash, an evaporating frame in a film that will not end, and the future instantly shoves it aside.
It’s mysterious as all hell too.
The universe is full. Absolutely packed. You can’t jam anything more into it. You’ve got this now, and nothing else is possible.
What we have are changes
Rescuing the past is hopeless because it doesn’t exist. I thought about it as I watched a painterly array of clouds over Manhattan. Daylight began to replace night.
But the first time it came to me was when I heard Phil Ochs‘s Changes, a gorgeously absorbing song that’s never been far from my mind.
The world's spinning madly, it drifts in the dark
Swings through a hollow of haze
A race around the stars, a journey through
The universe ablaze with changes
Changes: Phil Ochs
Ablaze with changes, the world doesn’t pause, not even for the moment we’re told to hang onto for dear life.
While you’re at it, may we suggest…
- At what age are people usually happiest? New research offers surprising clues
- What Tishaura Jones’ mayoral win says about the political power of Black women
- Is dream interpretation real? My two dreams aren’t so sure…
Rescuing the past, worse than holding water in your hands
With water, you can at least slow the loss. You’re better off chasing the mystery.
Here’s the problem.
Caution: it’s impossible to understand. That’s what makes it hard.
Physics is clear: The conservation of mass is a law that tells us that matter, like energy, can neither be created nor destroyed. Only changes are possible.
Change is constant, and one thing must always replace another. Constantly.
Everything changesBob Dylan, To Ramona
The present may not be all that secure either.
So, what about the past and the future…?
Somewhere, we set aside space to store an impression of the past, all things gone, which is really, all things. The past isn’t solid. That’s why you can change it.
That’s why recollections differ.
No one has the same recollection as anyone else, and our memory of a dream or something imagined gets saved just like whatever really happened.
The future? If there’s a future out there, more than an idea tugging at the present, why don’t we ever meet up with anyone marching back from there?
If this doesn’t make you hopeful, you’re missing wisdom’s most potent message.
The past is gone, can’t be rescued or saved, but the future is sitting there like a big, soft mound of clay. We can make whatever we want of it.
World peace, universal equality, the end of disease and hunger, abundance… It’s all there in the clay.
Just don’t look back.